In Lifestyle

How to Cope When You Can’t Remember Names


Can't Remember Names • Little Gold Pixel

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but what the heck. I’m pretty sure you’ve noticed if you’ve known me for any amount of time.

I am the worst at remembering names.

Well, maybe not the worst. Still, I have a fairly bad track record. A high percentage of the time I can’t remember names of people I’ve met only peripherally or offhand or in passing.

Forget about introducing me to more than one person at a party. Or saying hi on the first day at a new job. I’m telling you, there are people I’ve met at work several times, for several years. They know my name, and it’s well past the date when I can feign ignorance without seeming … well, ignorant.

There are so many tricks for remembering names. Forbes has a pretty good top 10 list. Cup of Jo brings up a good idea by visualizing someone you already know who has the same name.

But what should you do if all these tricks fail you, as they have for me? I rarely forget a face. But the names? Let’s just say mnemonic devices do not work for me when it comes to names, only when it comes to planets. (My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas … RIP, Pluto.)

Sometimes you just have to admit that you can’t remember names. In which case, I deploy one of these four methods.

4 Coping Skills When You Forget Someone’s Name

1. If in a group, rely on someone with a good memory. Take a quick aside and quietly ask for a name prompt. I happen to have a friend with a photographic memory, and while yes, I’m super jealous, I’m also grateful that I can rely on her elephant brain for help.

2. Smile and carry on the conversation without mentioning the other person’s name. You’d be surprised how rarely you actually need to know someone’s name in the course of a conversation. And, while you’re chatting, use your powers of deduction. If you’re lucky, someone else will walk in and say “Hi, Person!” At this time deploy your mnemonic device of choice and pray that this one sticks.

3. Offer a handshake. If you keep seeing the same person in social settings, and you’ve both smiled back and forth but neither of you seems to know the other’s name, you can take the initiative to say, “Hi, I can’t remember if we ever formally met. My name is _______.” The other person will instinctively reciprocate.

4. You fess up. Just flat out tell the mystery person that you are terrible with names, and would they mind sparking your memory? It helps to be the teensiest bit apologetic, but try not to feel awkward about your bad memory. If you absolutely must justify yourself, say something vague, like “Forgive me; I’ve been working so hard my brain is fried.”

Where do you fall? Are you good with names or do you turn to a memory device for help? Do you have any tried-and-true methods for saving face when you forget a name? Please share in the comments!

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